Up and over
Top equestrians will be putting on a show in Hampton Falls
HAMPTON FALLS — A quiet hamlet between Exeter and Hampton will become a hub of activity Aug. 7-11 as Silver Oak Farm welcomes more than 250 of the top competitive show jumping horses and riders from around the world.
The Silver Oak Jumper Tournament is the highest caliber competition of its kind in New Hampshire, and will even include Olympians.
Riders of all levels have invested their lives into the sport, often from a young age.
Rachel Quigley-Truncellito of Exeter and Meredith Stimson of Newton first became addicted to the sport after their first pony ride as young girls. Both young women say they skipped prom and other typical teenage events to be at the barn training with and caring for their horses.
Stimson and Quigley-Truncelliito opened Magnolia Show Stables in Georgetown, Mass., this past April and most of their students will attend the weekend-long event to watch their instructors compete alongside some of the greatest horse jumpers in the world, including Olympic medal winners Anne Kursinski and Peter Wylde.
"For their students, coming to this horse show is like going to the Olympics," show organizer Jeff Papows said.
There is nearly $250,000 up for grabs in prize money, including a $75,000 purse for the winner of the Grand Prix II.2.a National Standard competition on Sunday. The Silver Oak Jumper Tournament will serve as the selection site for the Bolivarian Games to be held in Peru in November.
The event also serves as a fundraiser for the University of New Hampshire's Therapeutic Riding Program and Children's Wish Foundation International. On Thursday, some of the children involved in those programs will have the chance to meet a panel of about 10 former Olympic riders who will answer questions and sign autographs ahead of their events on Saturday and Sunday.
The Silver Oak competition is being run by Papows of Gloucester, Mass. For the last five years, he served as the chairman of the Jumper Classic, but a philosophical difference caused a split in leadership.
Jumper Classic president and CEO Melissa Lovasco kept the name, and Papows kept the dates.
The Jumper Classic will be held in Ipswich, Mass., in September and Lovasco said it will draw about 500 horses.
"Every show is a great show," Lovasco said, adding that the Jumper Classic and Silver Oak are the only strictly jumper shows in the area.
Papows is a businessman, who fell in love with horse jumping later in life with a dream of one day competing in the Olympics.
The Silver Oak property is owned by the Birdsall family who lost their patriarch, and Papows's good friend, David, this past winter. His daughter, Victoria, a highly respected young jumper, will compete in the rings she knows so well.
But no riders, not even local jumpers, will see the world-class course until an hour before they jump, when each rider will have a chance to walk and memorize it just once.
The course is being designed by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany, who has designed courses for the Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games.
Show jumping is a highly technical sport, and Papows said jumps at this level can get "massive."
"When it goes wrong, gravity wins every time," Papows said, and he has the scars to prove it.
But when it goes right, the relationship between horse and rider, and the grace with which they surmount jumps and gallop around the course is magical.
Papows hopes to see between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators over the weekend and expects the event will pump about $7 million into the local economy.
Horses and riders are expected to travel from as far as Europe and South America to compete, and from around the country, and with every team comes a cadre of support staff, mainly for the horses, including massage therapists, chiropractors, veterinarians and groomers.
Because Papows is a rider himself, he said he is focused on taking care of the rider, from the unique materials used on the course, to the hay and stables, to the early end time for events each day, allowing teams some down time to explore the area.
The GGT Ring uses 170 tons of silica sand with a special type of fabric, called GGT, that Papows has shipped in from Europe. He said it creates the "ultimate cushion" and stability for when a horse takes off and lands.
The grass in the Grand Prix Ring has also been well cared for over the year.
Silver Oak Farm covers a total of 175 acres that will be filled with tented horse stables, spectator tents, about 35 vendors and the two main rings.
Between 30 and 40 of the riders competing are from New Hampshire.
"It is nice to have something so local of this caliber to be part of," Quigley-Truncellito said.
It is also nice to compete with the top show jumpers in the world, they said.
"It ups your game. You see how things are done," Stimson said. "It is motivating for us."
Ticket information and more details are available at SilverOakJumperTournament.com.